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‘Brüno’: Must a Movie Like This Be Broadcast Üniversal?

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Average: 3.7 (15 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – As a tribute to “Borat,” let’s start with a lesson in “not” jokes.

“Brüno” is everything one would hope for in a Sacha Baron Cohen return. The film is hilarious, unpredictable and worth every dollar it will make… NOT! There is a great fallacy that has spread in Hollywood and “Brüno” is one of its many victims.

Some making and marketing comedies believe that shocking their audience is an edgy and guaranteed formula for laughter. For the greater part of films like “Brüno,” however, the audience feels only disgust. Far from amused, several leave before the film has concluded.

The comedy Bruno from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to Borat
The comedy “Brüno” from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to “Borat”.
Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels, Universal Pictures

Attempting to match the cinematic success of 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” “Brüno” follows much the same format. This time we have an Austrian-import title character traveling with his assistant’s assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammatsten). Just as Borat did in 2006, Brüno meets with politicians, celebrities and members of the global community for his own special brand of interview.

The comedy Bruno from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to Borat
The comedy “Brüno” from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to “Borat”.
Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels, Universal Pictures

However, Borat struck a responsive chord because of the innocence and humanity of the character. We empathized with him and enjoyed laughing (for the most part) at his supposed naiveté.

Baron Cohen’s Brüno proves to be nothing more than a self-absorbed histrionic who is constantly foul just for foul’s sake. For Brüno, emotional depth is a faux accessory worn as low as his Dolce & Gabbana belt.

The mention of scenes like Brüno drinking champagne from his boyfriend Diesel’s (Clifford Bañagale) buttocks or his trip to the “Pink Cheeks Anal Bleaching Salon” amply makes the point.

These images – compounded by swinger’s party sex scenes, footage of Brüno and reality star Brittny Gastineau critiquing celebrity ultrasound pictures while loudly concluding that Jamie Lynn Spears should “abort!” her baby and a scene where Brüno feigns sex acts on the supposed ghost of Millie from Millie Vanilli – all make us wish for a selective delete button on one’s memory.

As if these aren’t surefire ways to get a reaction, the filmmakers throw in Baron Cohen’s penis. When they feel its dancing and spinning may not be enough, the penis talks to us. This gets a reaction. But what reaction?

Equally as bemusing, the film ends with the antithesis of a “We Are the World”-like effort as Bono, Sting, Snoop Dogg, Chris Martin and Slash collaborate with Brüno on an incredibly contrived-for-the-cameos theme song. Awful.

The comedy Bruno from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to Borat
The comedy “Brüno” from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to “Borat”.
Photo credit: Mark Schwartzbard, Universal Pictures

To Sacha Baron Cohen’s credit, the man is one fabulous character actor. Many declared Baron Cohen’s career in “shockumentaries” over after the success of “Borat” simply because most of the world would easily recognize him.

The comedy Bruno from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to Borat
The comedy “Brüno” from Universal Pictures is Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to “Borat”.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

But not only does he transform into Brüno with hair color, massive waxing and a new wardrobe but the man is able to change his entire demeanor including the intricacies of his posture and facial expressions.

And the film is not completely void of comedy. An ironic interview with Paula Abdul discussing her humanitarian efforts while she’s seated on one of Brüno’s “Mexican chair people” is certainly funny up to a point.

And Brüno’s confusion of the terms “Hamas” and “humus” left me giggling when I later dipped my pita bread.

Whether “Brüno” is to be deemed a successful film depends on the intent of the filmmakers. Due to the rampant and heavy marketing of the film as a comedy, one assumes that it’s a “comedy” the creative team: director Larry Charles and writers Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer, Peter Baynham and Sacha Baron Cohen intended to make.

However, the film’s true impact is one of profound sadness. Many scenes play as a behind-the-scenes look at the darkest of human behavior. Crowds merely look on as Brüno unpacks a baby sent through the airport baggage claim while no one seems to strive to help the child.

At a casting session Brüno holds in Sherman Oaks, Calif., parents casually agree to allow their children to be exposed to bees, wild animals, heavy machinery, propulsion at high speeds without a car seat and a 25 percent weight-loss goal within a week all in the name of “fame”.

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StarRead more film reviews from critic Elizabeth Oppriecht.

It’s this team of ugly “characters” that leaves us thinking about what we’ve seen (though we may not want to long afterward).

Though not necessarily in its intended purpose, Brüno is effective at this level. Those expecting this film to bring a Borat-level banter and brouhaha will leave drastically disappointed. Those looking for a commentary on the sad state of the world will leave just slightly more depressed than when they arrived. Said simply, Brüno disappoints.

“Brüno” stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Clifford Bañagale, Chibundu Orukwowu, Josh Meyers, Bono, Chris Martin, Elton John and Slash. The film, which opened on July 10, 2009, is rated “R” for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language. “Brüno” has a running time of 83 minutes.

Elizabeth Oppriecht

By ELIZABETH OPPRIECHT
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
elizabeth@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2009 Elizabeth Oppriecht, HollywoodChicago.com

Anonymous's picture

Wow you completely missed

Wow you completely missed the point.

What a terrible review.

J.Von's picture

and the point was?

If the point was to entertain the masses with mindless, gross, and insulting humor, then it was made very clearly. As well, viewers spend their money to watch lame “shock value” excuses to laugh and the movie makers get the last laugh all the way to the bank. At least quality comedic films leave you feeling good in the end.

Dezx Collin's picture

I’m not sure how you can

I’m not sure how you can like Borat, but hate Bruno. I agree with the first comment here that you’ve missed the point - for example, one WAS shocked at the bystanders when they failed to react to the baby on a luggage carousel.

I think it’s actually much better than you suggest; it just didn’t tickle your funnybone. It’s a scathing social commentary, and an excellent one at that. And while the actions of those ON SCREEN might make one feel like the world is in a sorry state, the reactions of the AUDIENCE - their shared shock at the ignorance/intolerance of many people on display in the movie - should be reassuring.

Anonymous's picture

Dead on...

I can’t agree with this review more! I was among those who left the theatre when the song started. I was really bummed.

And I got the point of this movie the first time the joke was told. But the 90th time it gets a little old.

Anonymous's picture

Bruno

This was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen - we walked out - words cannot describe the utterly, unbelievable scenes, couldn’t believe that a film like this would ever pass the censors.

Don’t waste your money - stay away, it makes your skin crawl.

Anonymous's picture

Bruno.....

This is just the movie industry trying to force homosexuality as an “in” thing and that it is totally amazing, everybody should be homosexual. Pretty pathetic and worthless movie. I saw 10 people walk out in my showing. I went because friends wanted to go see it, I don’t recommend it at all.

me's picture

Who are you--kidding?? I agree, you definintely missed the point

As a writer, Ms. ELIZABETH OPPRIECHT you should retire from public review writing. You couldn’t make a valid point if your life depended on it, sorry, but the truth. You people take yourselves way too seriously…

Hey Anon #3…”This is just the movie industry trying to force homosexuality as an “in” thing and that it is totally amazing, everybody should be homosexual.” ??? Are you crazy or stoned dumb drunk?
It’s actually mocking the gay community. How is making fun of someone a way of converting? Maybe you mean how they made the film “Borat” - to try and force people from Kazakhstan to be the “in” thing? You couldn’t sound more ridiculous with that comment. People like you didn’t like it because you have NO SENSE OF HUMOR. Having a sense of humor entails being able to laugh at the world and it’s current events (that includes laughing at yourself for you are either seeing the world through Bruno’s eyes or the homophobes). Laughing at serious, touchy matters is a way of not only bringing some “relief” to a tense situation but can also enhance one’s point of view. We have to chose to live and let live and laugh at all the crazy stuff in our beautiful planet if we don’t understand it. It disarms the threat or nervousness we feel towards something “foreign” or that which doesn’t sit quite right with us and brings a bit of lightness to an discomfort.

You probably could find someone who teaches the value of laughter and comedy. You might just want to enroll—I think there is a whole lot of life passing you by while it’s eating you alive…

Good luck!
PS. I am a COMPLETELY straight person, in case you are wondering. Far straighter than you will ever be for it was you who made the absurd statement and is feeling threatened. Think about it.

J.Von's picture

Life Passing By...

Hello Me.

I’m with you 100% on the point of having a sense of humor, laughing at life and the overall benefits of doing so. I admire how you express yourself.

Entertain me for a moment and let’s recognize the sense of humor in the following:

1) Cheaply and disrespectfully mocking a person’s sexual preference on a national scale.

2) Placing “unsuspecting” American parents in situations where their parenting styles are brought into serious question, and as a result further displaying our culture in an unfavorable light.

*I made the choice to walk out once these two glaring “points” were presented.

I feel that these two topics can be approached with a healthy sense of humor that can contribute to them being less “foreign”, and free from exploitation in the name of box office dollars.

Also, I feel that Ms. Oppriecht is quite fair in her movie reviews. Since when is publicly bashing another’s craft considered appreciating life? BHappy

Sheila's picture

Borat was often brilliant.

Borat was often brilliant. Bruno is just totally lame. Lots of things can be “controversial” but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good. Two hours of my life I can never get back. A total waste of time and money. Horrible, unimaginative, cruel, stupid. Possibly the worst movie it has been my misfortune to see. I cannot fathom how anyone could consider it “good” in any way. The sooner it’s out of theaters and subsequently relegated to the “20 DVD’s for $1.50” box at BlockBuster, the better.

Chris's picture

Hilarious

Brüno was hilarious ! 5 stars

“The mention of scenes like Brüno drinking champagne from his boyfriend Diesel’s (Clifford Bañagale) buttocks or his trip to the “Pink Cheeks Anal Bleaching Salon” amply makes the point.

These images – compounded by swinger’s party sex scenes, footage of Brüno and reality star Brittny Gastineau critiquing celebrity ultrasound pictures while loudly concluding that Jamie Lynn Spears should “abort!” her baby and a scene where Brüno feigns sex acts on the supposed ghost of Millie from Millie Vanilli – all make us wish for a selective delete button on one’s memory.

As if these aren’t surefire ways to get a reaction, the filmmakers throw in Baron Cohen’s penis. When they feel its dancing and spinning may not be enough, the penis talks to us. This gets a reaction. But what reaction?”

These scenes were simply hugely funny, and my best advice would be to go and buy yourself a sense of humor…Oh wait, that’s one of the actually few things you won’t be able to buy ! Bad luck ;-)

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